14 December 2012

Uganda: MPs Were Bribed to Fail Oil Bill - Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni vowed to resist any foreign interference in Uganda's oil sector. ( Resource: Uganda Focuses On Oil and Gas )

President Yoweri Museveni has asked the Inspector General of Government to investigate circumstances under which some Members of Parliament were paid huge sums of money during debate on the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Bill 2012.

Museveni suspects that the MPs were generously funded by foreign interests bent on frustrating development of Uganda's oil sector. The President believes the MPs breached the leadership code through earning exorbitant payments in a flurry of oil workshops that preceded the passing of the oil Bill.

President Museveni stated that the MPs earned between sh1m and 5m for every workshop attended.

In his address to the House on Thursday to dispel what he referred to as "nefarious and mendacious" stories swirling about Uganda's oil sector, a jovial but tough sounding Museveni faulted MPs describing the Theodore Ssekikubo -led Parliamentary Forum on oil and gas (PFOG) as "saboteurs and agents of foreign interests."

"All attendees have been earning sh1m while the facilitators sh5m," Museveni said to majorly NRM MPs, adding, "At Munyonyo alone, sh1.5b was spent on an oil seminar. Where does this money come from?"

"I have written to the IGG about this because it's wrong for politicians not to declare any gift of economic value," Museveni said as he reeled off a number of NGOs he said are fronting foreign interests through funding these workshops. The NGOs included PFOG, NAPE, Globe Alert, ACODE, CECOG, and Atiego.

When asked about the matter, Frank Mulamuzi executive director National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) said: We are not being used by anybody, this country belongs to all of us and not only one person saying we are being used by donors to promote their interests is not right. Where government gets its money is where we also get our funding, we all want to benefit from this resource."

Ssekikubo attended the House, but did not immediately react to the accusations leveled against his group. New Vision was unable to get comments from him later.

In accordance with the leadership code, Museveni reminisced how he handed over 800 heads of cattle donated to him after the liberation war that brought him to power to numerous government farms.

Museveni who laced his one and half hour speech with barbs towards Theodore Ssekikubo, Wilfred Niwagaba, Abdu Katuntu and Bishop emeritus Zac Niringiye for their role in organizing these workshops.

He asserted that foreigners are averse to the prospect of oil dollars flowing into Uganda's coffers.

Museveni questioned the rationale of MPs subscribing to the PFOG when the House has the Natural resources committee where issues on the nascent sector can be addressed.

"The saboteurs don't want our oil sector to succeed because that will mean financial independence for Uganda," Museveni said to foot stumping from MPs. The majority of opposition MPs stayed away.

Museveni who downplayed the recent impasse between the legislature and the Executive over Clause 9 of the Bill granting powers to the minister to issue and revoke licenses of erring oil companies, praised the final version of the oil bill as a sound legal framework designed to ensure that "all stake holders are involved in a harmonized way to avoid paralysis."

According to the spokesperson of the inspectorate of government, Munira Ali, a public official flouts the leadership code if he fails to declare to the IGG any gift of financial value beyond US$100.

In the event that one gets a gift that meets such financial threshold, such an officer is mandated to declare it to the IGG who then advises on how it should be used.

However, in the case of MPs who attended the oil workshops, Munira contends that the onus will be upon the attendees to explain the reason for their alleged cash payments.

In the run up to passing the Petroleum Bill, the legislature and the executive were for weeks deadlocked over clause 9 of the Bill.

A host of MPs wanted powers to issue and revoke licenses entrusted with a Petroleum Authority, while the executive rooted for the sector minister since he is more accountable to parliament.

It was during this impasse that a number of NGOs and civil society organizations in tandem with the PFOG organized a host of workshops to educate MPs on what they labeled as best practices elsewhere.

However, the executive and some MPs not subscribing to PFOG have since quietly voiced their disquiet about the ultimate interests of these NGOs in Uganda's oil sector.

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